It’s scary to see how eager some people are to get into the music industry when they know absolutely nothing about it. Label executives can smell this desperation, and many of them won’t hesitate to take full advantage of it. This is why we hear so many horror stories of artists getting into lifetime deals and being robbed of their royalties.
This is also why you need to know as much about the industry as you can before you go in. Doing so will prevent you from getting exploited and help you make the right decisions for your career. Here are some of the things most people don’t know about the music industry.
Artists Only Get a Tiny Fraction of Record Sales
Some people assume that selling a million records automatically makes them rich, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s not uncommon for artists to only get around 10% of the money from their record sales. This means that if an artist sells a million records at $10, they will get a million back.
You might think that this is a lot of money, but not so fast. From that money, almost half will go to the IRS since you'll be in a high earning bracket. Next, you have to give your manager a cut, which will be around 15%, then pay your lawyer, accountant, etc., and we haven't even started talking about your advance payments yet.
At the end of the day, you could end up with under $200,000 in your pocket, which is a bit brutal when you think about it. There’s no telling when and if you’ll have a successful record again either.
So, how do artists make money? Mainly from shows, not records. And, if you were unfortunate enough to get into a bad 360 deal, your record company will take a cut of your show earnings as well. They may also own all your publishing so you don’t get royalties when your music is used and played on the radio. As well as this, they’ll own your master recordings, and get a cut from your merchandise sales as well.
This means that you have to take your time before signing a record deal and run any contract by multiple entertainment lawyers first. You should also know that there are things that you can do to increase how much you get on your record sales. If you learn how to write or are already a writer, then you won't have to pay royalties to a writer. The same goes if you learn how to produce. The more you know how to do, the less you’ll have to pay other people, so try to be as versatile as possible.
Performers are not the Ones Making the Most Money
People also seem to think that performers get the lion's share in the record business, but that’s far from the truth. You have producers and writers that are making much more money than the average artist, and that's because they can work on way more projects at a time. In some cases, the producer and the writer will get more than the artists on a record’s sale. This is why you need to look at the industry beyond performing and see how you could make a niche for yourself if you can't get signed.
Getting a Record Deal Should Not be Your End Goal
Getting a record deal only works for certain kinds of artists. Record labels will usually favor artists that have a marketable image, are under a certain age, and appeal to a wide demographic. They will also favor artists that are triple threats and have a certain stage presence. In short, you need to have star potential.
If a record label doesn’t believe in you, they will not sign you. Or even worse, they might sign you to a horrible deal and shelve you indefinitely. This means that you could be shackled to a contract and not be able to release music even if that’s all you know how or want to do.
This is why we suggest that you look at all avenues and consider releasing a project yourself first. All you need is a good studio, a good engineer, and a few tracks and you could produce a small EP and see what kind of reaction you get. Even if this isn't enough to make you wildly successful, it will help show a body of work in case you do want to get signed later.
If you’re looking for a great affordable recording studio, you should give Pirate a try. They have locations all around the country and offer some of the best quality you’ll find at that price. The quality of their installations rivals any top recording studio in the world, and they give you full freedom so you can work on your creations.
It’s Hard Work
Another thing a lot of people don't realize about signing a record deal is how much work is involved. You'll need to perform when the record label wants you to, and you can't cancel shows just because you don't feel like it. Canceling a show on a tour is a big deal and could lead to millions of dollars lost. You also might have to perform on back-to-back days and even twice in 24 hours.
Not only that, but your record company might ask you to enroll in all sorts of classes, and you’ll have no choice but to go. You might need to get things like dance classes, singing classes, and media training, among others.
You will also have to wake up at the wee hours of the morning to go on morning shows even if you had a show a few hours before. And you have to be happy and focused the whole time or people may start to spread rumors or criticize your attitude. So, don't assume that it's all smooth sailing after you sign your contract, and be prepared to work harder than you've ever worked in your life.
If you are thinking of starting a career in the music industry, we hope we are able to teach you a thing or two about it. The most important part is taking your time and don’t rush into signing anything until you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
Published by Samantha Brown